X-Men: The Last Stand, whose title today holds no meaning since it was clearly not the last stand, finally addresses some of the issues I had with the earlier pictures, but raises new ones with its multitude of characters, none of whom really know what to do with themselves.
Consider Jean Grey, who you will recall died in the last movie and is reborn in this one as the Phoenix (Famke Janssen). I know from her life in the comics that, as the Phoenix, she is a mutant of tremendous power. Indeed, in this film she transforms Alcatraz into a magical water display that oddly reminded me of the Musical Fountain on Singapore’s Sentosa resort island, without the children. As a movie character, she is dim-witted, unreliable, and really quite lost. The screenwriters, Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn, have added her out of convenience, as they have with almost everyone else. She stands outside the plot and becomes a kind of kickstand, ready to prop the plot when it needs propping. When all is said and done, one has to wonder what exactly she contributed.
Consider also the new addition of Angel (Ben Foster), a young mutant with an impressive wingspan. As a mutant he’s pretty cool, but he seems about as comfortable in the movie as a pair of shoes three sizes too tight. He drops in, flies a bit, does some rescuing, flies off. No hellos. No goodbyes. Also, the plot never addresses his bones, which I’m sure have to be hollow, since his wings can not only support his muscular body weight, they can also manage a passenger. And how does he ever get a shirt on?
Then there’s poor Cyclops (James Marsden), still pining woefully after the death of his beloved Jean. What crime he must have committed between the last film and this to be treated so horribly. Or maybe, and I hope this isn’t a spoiler, he just wanted out of his contract as hastily as possible.
The writers have also failed to imbue some of the new mutants with powers of real consequence and logic. There’s a guy who can multiply himself at will. We learn he robbed seven banks… at the same time. I think that would have made a better movie than this. In the end the plot uses him as bait, which he should consider a disrespectful slap in the face.
In a classroom scene at Xavier’s school we catch a glimpse of a girl waving her palm across her notebook and words magically appearing under her fingers. Tell me, what use would this mutation have for her? What are her career choices? Stenographer? I thought Xavier’s school was meant to broaden horizons, not file them down.
There’s also a guy who can sprout porcupine spikes from every pore of his skin. His creators no doubt thought he’d look good in full bloom, which he does. But porcupines are defensive creatures, and this guy is shown killing a poor doctor by hugging her. So, what’s he going to do when faced with fifteen assailants? Hope they all need consoling, one at a time?
I sound like a surly whiner, but it’s difficult to get around shoddily written characters, especially when the story that supports them provokes interesting ideas. Remember Angel, the social outcast? His father, Warren Worthington II (Michael Murphy), has harnessed the DNA of a mutant whose mutation is the degeneration of mutations. In simple English, he removes mutant powers. Warren has developed this gift into a formula called The Cure and plans to offer it to any mutant who wishes their “disease” gone. This is great stuff, because finally we are faced with mutant politics and their place in this world. Of all the thousands of them, surely a few might not want to look like a frog, or have blue skin, or three eyes.
The Cure splits a three-way pie. In one corner is Warren, holding his formula aloft. In another, Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his mighty X-Men. In the third, Magneto (Ian McKellen), who sees The Cure as an aggressive measure and rallies a bunch of hotheaded mutants, including Multiply Guy and Porcupine Dude, to his cause. Everyone meets at the climax, on Alcatraz island, where the movie dissolves all its intelligent and promising ideas into a nasty action extravaganza that cheats us all of our time and money. I’m not a fan of politics, but I would have liked to have seen more of it in The Last Stand. There are so many issues raised, none fully addressed. Get rid of a lot of the action and replace it with talking.
Now it comes to me, Rogue (Anna Paquin) is the movie’s most real and pragmatic character. In my review of X-Men (2000) I remarked that “She is cursed with a mutation that prevents her from ever feeling the bare skin of another human being. Does she feel alone, entrapped by her own body? We’ll never know.” Correction: We know now.
Best Moment | Magneto wiping out an entire armoured convoy, literally single-handedly.
Worst Moment | Take your pick. It’s an open buffet.